Monday, February 19, 2007

What's So Great About Long Division?

In my last post, I mentioned that Xavier hates long division. Here are a couple of sites questioning the need for long division in the first place, courtesy of Zany Mom: (And you thought I ignored your email, didn't you! LOL)

Senseless of School Math

"Math learned as a side effect of using it is easy. Kids learn to see the big picture and how things fit together and how numbers work.

When kids are made to do pencil and paper math, they get lost in the details. They have to figure out 11/17 of 87 before they have been casually exposed to hundreds of personally meaningful ways fractions are used around them.

I think one of the most helpful things parents can do is to solve everyday problems in their head out loud. It forces you to see things in simpler terms so that you can do it in your head. If one is faced with 103-56 and does it the way you were taught in school, you'll have to juggle and remember a lot of numbers that don't relate to the problem in your head. But if you can see the problem broken down into understandable pieces, then it's much easier and kids get to see how numbers work. (One of the big problems with pencil and paper math is that the numbers feel fixed. You can't alter the problem into something simpler.)

So for 103-56 you might ask how far 56 was from 100. Well, 4 gets you to 60 and 40 more gets you to 100 and 3 more gets you to 103. So 47."
(emphasis mine)

Spoken like a true visual-spatial learner. ;-)
Not that there is anything wrong with that! I would do the same problem in my head the same way. But not all kids work this way. I never had trouble applying algorithms to math problems and I can multiply and divide fractions like a house on fire. LOL

Unschoolers and Mathematics

"People do NOT need to learn math the way it is taught in schools. In fact, they don't need to "learn math" at all. Math is INSEPERABLE from most everything else in life, and if you live a full life, you'll learn all the math you need because you need it. It's there. It's part of everything. You couldn't escape it if you tried really hard."

We're not unschoolers but I mostly agree with both of these sites. The problem comes in when the kids skip the lower difficulty stuff (with Wolfie it's dealing with polynomials) and then run into trouble with the higher level stuff they are interested in. We're having to go back and practice the polynomials and he hates it hates it hates it. The practice, not the math.


Zany Mom said...

What are polynomials used for in real life (aside from computational scientists, that is?)

Zany Mom said...

I guess what I should have asked is what does a kid want to do that he can't do until he practices polynomials?

The Princess Mom said...

What he wants to do is pass a really challenging algebra class as a 7th grader, for once thing. ;-)

I know, I know, I said the forbidden word, "class." LOL

God knows, honestly. Maybe he wants to be a computational scientist. I don't pretend to understand it. I just help him when I can. Polynomials, I can do. The (supposedly) real life word problems he's supposed to be doing with them, no way. Yes, I can see a need to figure out how much concrete one would need to construct a three-foot walkway around a circular pool of x radius, but I haven't the slightest idea how to do it. That's what contractors are for!

Zany Mom said...

Ah, a class. Well that figures. ;) (kidding!) And here I thought he wanted to design a roller coaster or something cool...